Thursday, November 27, 2014

what I heard today

  • the chink of glasses
  • spoken prayers
  • unspoken prayers
  • knife cutting turkey with gravy on white plate
  • Manuel and Junior, servers, and their accents (Central American?)
  • the whirr of my 2007 VW Rabbit engine
  • the hum of acceptance from the insertion and pullout of the plastic hotel room key
  • the elevator's churning
  • tires on pavement
  • heating fan in room
  • football on the car radio (Seahawks score TD against 49ers)
  • family voices on the phone
  • family voices, including my own, in person
  • a door closing loudly in a hallway
  • ice machine making ice
  • ring tones of messages on a cellphone
  • keys on a keyboard being tapped, not all of them, mind you, but some of them, selectively
  • gratitude

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

what I saw today

  • a few dozen vehicles either off the road, facing the wrong way, or on the road, same calamitous circumstances, owing to the slippery slope of snow
  • whitened and crystalline branches, limbs, tree trunks, and mini-palisades
  • rain or snow or ice against the windshield
  • windshield wipers
  • the tired yet wise and kind eyes of the 98-year-old woman who gave birth to me
  • my hometown, remarkably recognizable
  • toll booths
  • lines of people at the rest stop, also called text stop
  • road signs
  • heavily mascaraed and tired-beyond-years eyes of a gas station sales clerk
  • a McDonald's crispy chicken sandwich
  • a holiday bouquet of not-very-fresh flowers
  • a coffee-to-go, from Wendy's
  • apostrophes
  • the digital readout of mileage on my car's dashboard surpassing 100000

Sunday, November 23, 2014

cui bono?

The movie "Birdman" did not soar for me. Although the acting performances were excellent across the board, and the filming techniques intriguing, the movie was drenched in the existential searching and posing I thought went out in the Seventies. I liked some of the takes on Manhattan, evoking the somewhat squalid Eighties, when I worked there, more than the current Disneyfied version of Times Square and its environs. Oh, I get the reality versus fiction versus fantasy stuff. And the back story about worth and authenticity and identity blah blah blah. Cui bono? To what good? The writers and directors took themselves ├╝ber-seriously. Sorry. Pretentious claptrap. Not buying it. Save it for the Gauloises-smoking crowd.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


You see the stickers on vehicles.



Designations of marathon or triathlon mileage, they are the proclamations of The Saved, the self-aggrandizing evangelism of The Fit and The Wholesome.

"I am better than you are," they all but shout.

"I will outlive you and your lazy ways."

"Take that," is the challenge to the reader adrift in the vehicular wake of the message.


As in zero.

You are invited to steal this concept and bumpersticker or T-shirt it.

You are invited to proselytize on behalf of no-thing.


As in non-attainment, here and now, acceptance, mindfulness, emptiness, detachment, resignation, awakening.

Go for it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fifty-one Shades of Slate

You gods and goddesses of climate and color, you grayed us today, oh yes, you did. You sent us scurrying to thesauruses (thesauri, if you prefer) of dank drabness to describe the day and its discontents. Slate. Pewter. Lead. Argentine. Smoke. Steel. No, those are all paltry attempts at circumscribing the curtain that descended on our quotidian tasks, or avoidance of them owing to crippling dismalness. Are you pleased? Are you satisfied with your prodigious display of blanketed doom? Are you proud of such meteorological talents (on a Monday, no less!)? What next, cascading ash from the volcanic eruption of Mt. Pavlof in Alaska? R.S.V.P.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

the tide

I received an email yesterday (read it today) from a friend. They have surrendered. She won't survive leukemia. A very tough two years. Forty-four years married. Devoted. Words mere water. Mercy. God's mercy upon them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

hoopster hoopla

Three tall young men. SU Orange jackets. People posing with them for pics. Mall food court. Presumably SU basketball players. Affable and accommodating, from all I can discern. Hoopla over hoopsters. Not a tidal wave of celebrity commotion, just a ripple. But likely more than if the 14th Dalai Lama or Nancy Pelosi or Anthony Doerr or Stephanie Miner or Daniel Berrigan or the city's best teacher strolled by. Maybe that is how it should be. Maybe it should not matter, either way. Maybe. Maybe not.

Monday, November 10, 2014

epitaph laugh

Oh, stop, don't go getting all nervous just because you see the word "epitaph." I'm not trying to send a secret message or evoke a mortal concern or any of that. As a former headline writer, I love the brevity of epitaphs. A life in a few words. Succinct. Pithy, as in central core, the organic essential substance. I suspect epitaphs are out of favor these days. I won't get into that. I just want to share a few candidates for my self, some verbal trial balloons, while I am above the dirt.







*I'm not saying I favor this one (I don't), but it encapsulates my overeager tendency to please, or be pleasing, or need stroking, or reassurance, thereby inviting, almost begging for, a swift left to the jaw in the boxing ring of life.

innocence and victimhood

The person to my right at the coffee shop has on her left a book titled Innocence and Victimhood. On the spine I see the words "critical human rights." It looks like a textbook. Innocence. Victimhood. I can't claim to have written the definitive text on either, though the latter would seem my specialty more than the former. That self-judgment may be a tad harsh. Does it victimize me? And my personal innocence was lost a long time ago, and I seem to recall it most in my grandson's eyes, though that is a naive and sentimental view, is it not? What is innocence? What is victimhood? Are they merely personal traits (attributes, states, concepts) or more broadly incarnate (corporate, national, global)? I know not. Which is more appealing? (That is a facile question; or maybe not, on closer scrutiny.) And beyond words as words, and notions as notions (as our Buddhist friends like to note), what are these matters, after all?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Berlin, and beyond

When the Berlin Wall went up, it scared me. I was a postwar boy. Images of tanks facing off triggered fears of nuclear war.

When the Berlin Wall came down, I thought, "Who would think, in our lifetime?" After so many deaths and muscle and might and barbed wire and concrete, it seemed the Wall would prove indomitable, impregnable, intransigent. It seemed the Wall would be permanent, at least in our lifetimes.

The Wall came down 25 years ago today. May father died in May of 1989. I  always thought that he, a soldier in World War II, albeit in the Pacific Theater, would be moved to tears by the Wall's collapse.

I've been to Berlin.

I've seen the remnants.

I've pondered the metaphors.

beautiful solid free

In my reading today, Thich Nhat Hanh said he vows at the outset of the day to make each moment beautiful, solid, and free. That is a worthwhile goal, is it not? Even moments that embrace one of those elements are valuable. Amen.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Kava Cafe, or is it Cafe Kava, is buzzing with voices, young and old, male and female, mostly Caucasian but perhaps more mixed than you'd expect. Speaking of the Caucasus Mountains, most of the voices are Ukrainian, with aural patches of English and music that might be Ukrainian. The hum and wave and rhythm of voices. The throb of commerce. Saturday morning. November.

Friday, November 07, 2014

autumn adagio

Freedom of Espresso percolating

November sun stains

cumulus streets named Plum and Solar

lazy wind fans burning bush

branching scarlet melon peach burgundy bronze

emerald naked rain


don't say it


Monday, November 03, 2014

spin cycle

Doing my laundry at Colonial Laundromat, I was taken aback, a little, seeing a young couple, in their early twenties or younger, come in with a little girl. It was around 8:30 p.m. I get annoyed and dismayed when I see parents or guardians out and about with their kids when, in my view, it is bedtime. Worst is seeing a whole family traipsing through Wegmans or Tops at 11 p.m. of a school night. Inexcusable, in my old-world view. This wasn't that late, yet I did muse to myself, "Now? You have to do your laundry now?" But as I extracted my clothes from the dryer, I noticed the father presenting reading flash cards to the girl. He was patiently helping her sound out words or try to decipher sight words. The woman looked on, not saying a word or joining in. My head had a lot of questions about these roles, but I seized on positive aspects of this observation, and I did not want the moment to pass.

I approached the young man. "I applaud you for doing that. For reading with your daughter. Good for you. It's important."

"Nobody did that for me," he said. "I don't want her to be like me. They had to read the questions to me when I took an exam. I'm trying to help her."

"Well, good for you. It's never too early. How old is she?"

"Six," the girl interjected.

"You like to read?"

She scrunched her face up.

"You will. You'll get to like it. I read every day."

I'm not going to lie. I was lifted by this simple act.

And then I was deflated. Shortly after our little conversation, another guy walked in, with two girls, presumably his daughters, maybe slightly older than the six-year-old who was working on her reading. These girls might have been twins. It was now closer to 9 p.m. No books. No flash cards. Just laundry. No bedtime story, from a book or from memory. Not in the laundromat. Not tonight.